How to Meal Plan
We’ve heard it a million times meal plan, meal plan, meal plan. Usually, if you’re not it gets brushed off as unnecessary or a waste of time. Even if you wanted to sometimes you just have no clue where to start or even how to do it.
Well I’m here to tell you meal planning doesn’t have to be a pain. Whether or not you believe it you already have one. Your meal plan, however, might control you a bit more than you’d like but as long as you’re actually eating you do in fact have a plan.
Why should you meal plan
Meal planning can be a lifesaver when you’re crunched for time, trying to diet, change your lifestyle, cut down on waste or even trying to save money. It allows you to take control of your food, your schedule and even your money. You probably already have a notebook laying around so you really have all you need to get started.
Benefits of meal planning
I think what I love most about it, is that there’s less arguing. Sure sometimes our schedule gets flipped, timing doesn’t work out, or I forget to take something out (done this way too many times) or we simply really don’t want what is on the menu. However, the vast majority of the time there’s no arguing about what’s for dinner. Cause trust me, in our house, I swear it takes like an hour at least to figure out dinner if there’s no plan.
Best part though. Making sure you get the food groups you want, making sure when you’re crunched for time you’re not always just grabbing something last minute. And my personal favorite (beside some less arguing) less trips to the store. I am not a shopper I really dislike it so I’d much rather just get it all over with at once. Which by the way helps save money because you tend to have less impulse buys which can easily add up.
How to meal plan – Where to start
First off decide which meals you’ll plan out. IF you’re not already planning maybe tackling three meals for 7 days is a lot, but pick somewhere and just do it. If dinner is your goal (cause lets face it that’s usually the problem child here) plan your schedule out. Know which days are super crazy, which days you might have a little extra time, and even which days you pretty much know you’re not going to want to do squat when you get home. And yes that is very important. The easier you make it the more likely it is to work.
If you’re new to cooking start easy. No need to make a 5 course dinner. The plan literally could be Mac and cheese with hotdogs. The plan could be to grab take out. Or even one of those frozen bags. Just try to create a plan that will work for your life right now. Check out below for some great ideas of how to split your week. We’ve had a bit of practice over the years. At first we started with a simple white board.
How to Meal plan on a budget
If your primary goal is to save money, shave costs or even just stick to a budget, meal planning can be your best friend. Meal planning allows you to really make your dollar work for you. Taking advantage of sales can help stretch your dollar, or allow you to stock up to maximize the benefit you can get from a sale(especially a good one). If you have a bunch of things, be it a well stocked pantry, or the hodgepodge of randomness, meal planning can allow you the opportunity to step back and think about how to use it up.
Meal planning can help you with a low or no spend challenge. Using up what you have sometimes takes creativity, but it’s also a great way to shave some dollars once in a while. Before we kept a really well stocked pantry I would actually do this twice a year before we did our stock up shopping. I’d make a list of everything we had and then try to use up the most I could without buying anything other than produce. Two huge benefits: 1. Save money cause you’re not buying much if anything and 2. Great way to clean up the pantry and get rid of that stuff that might have gotten pushed to the back. Bottom line meal planning can be a huge boom to your budget.
Meal planning recipes
Now this part can and should be fun. How many times have you gotten into a rut and found yourself eating the same things over and over again? Well if you sit down and brainstorm (preferably with any and all who will be partaking in said meals) you might find that you can come up with a bunch of ideas. (This is actually a great activity to do while hungry because frankly everything sounds good. Which means you’re pretty likely to actually think of things that you would want to eat) I’m a scribbler at heart so don’t mind my mess of a notebook. It’s the latest rendition of our meal plan and I’ve been loving it. Everything in one place (even allows me to look back and see what we’ve done) It take a little time in the beginning of a cycle, but it saves so much time on a week to week basis. So for right now anyway it’s been working. Just need to get back to trying new recipes again.
Start with your favorites, flip through some cookbooks dream a little. It’s a rabbit hole but I love scrolling through Pinterest for ideas. There never seems to be a shortage of ideas out there. Now some will be winners, some losers but you’ll also find some quick favorites that become must haves.
Trying something new
If you’re trying a new recipe every weekish, guess what, that could be over 50 new recipes a year. Even if you only keep a few, can you imagine how many new favorites you can have in your back pocket over time? We’ve been doing this for over 15 years. Our favorites have changed over time as our cooking and tastes have evolved (fully processed to from scratch) but we have quite the list now of dinner ideas to choose from. Check out that growing list in our meal planning ideas series. If you need some ideas of how to split your week up keep reading for some ideas.
5 Meal Planning Examples
- Certain food each day of the week
- Meatless Monday
- Taco Tuesdays
- Worldly Wednesday
- Fend for yourself
- Breakfast for Dinner
- Type of cooking
- Grill it
- Bake it
- one pot
- Crock pot it
- New recipe
- soup, salad and or sandwich
- Around the world
- Fast food at home
- Types of protein (this is the one we tend to do)
- And sometimes we throw in a full fish category, but more often it ends up with miscellaneous
- Hodge Podge (this is kinda where we started out)
- Out (actually go out)
- Out (take out)
- Freezer meal
- Family Dinner (actually make a real meal)
- Crock pot
- Whatever/ What’s around AKA leftovers
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